I’m glad I had a job that I hated.
That job was working as a service advisor in the auto industry. Specifically, I worked for a variety of car dealerships over my eight-year career. I worked in the business for about nine years in total if we’re counting the time I worked my way up into that service advisor position.
Many of you who follow the blog regularly are already aware that I did this job and didn’t like it. In fact, the hatred I had for the job and my desire to get out as soon as possible led to the genesis of this site.
What’s Not To Like?
50-hour to 60-hour workweeks.
Getting up at 5 a.m. to 6 a.m.
Dealing with clients that aren’t particularly happy to see you (seeing me was akin to seeing a dentist).
Feeling miserable when you had to call people and tell them that their car wasn’t worth a repair or that they had to spend $4,000 or $5,000 to make a car right again.
Working on a commission basis, which meant I had no idea what my income would be from day to day or week to week. Moreover, it meant I had to compete with my fellow co-workers, leading to a very hostile, aggressive, and competitive work environment where you were constantly watching your back.
Spending most of my waking hours around people that were equally miserable to be there.
Sales quotas. If I don’t sell expensive repairs and maintenance, I don’t make money.
Meetings which were designed to showcase our inability to get things done correctly.
Customer surveys that had an overwhelming impact on my pay. Bad score? Smaller check. The very customers that weren’t happy to see me in the first place held money over my head even while I had to call them and oftentimes deliver bad news.
Am I painting a picture here?
But This Job Was The Greatest Thing That Ever Happened To Me
The boiling frog is an anecdote describing a frog slowly being boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to threats that occur gradually…
That job was the boiling water and I was the frog.
And guess what? I didn’t want to be cooked to death.
I now realize that it was the very job I hated that led me to seek out financial independence. It led me to seek out light in the darkness of my own despair. It motivated me to get away from that which brought unhappiness upon my life.
It’s because I so strongly disliked what I did for a living that I felt compelled to look for another way.
It’s funny, but I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the automotive industry for inspiring me to jump out of the water. If they wouldn’t have heated up the water so much and so fast, I might have never felt the need to get out of there.
When I first started this blog back in early 2011, I was languishing a bit in my career. I was having a hard time making more than $40,000 per year. I felt overworked, overstressed, and generally unhappy.
But once I felt that hot water cooking me alive, I became focused. I was intent on jumping out as soon as I could.
That led to reading books like Your Money or Your Life which led to reading books like The Ultimate Dividend Playbook which led to my “eureka moment” which led to starting this blog and marching toward financial independence.
That focus and intent also led to me turning on the charm offensive at work. I started to work harder than ever. If you were in my way, you were getting steamrolled. I started to make more money… a lot more money. I was promoted from one car line to another where there was a lot more potential for income.
The income was up. And expenses were down thanks to living below my means.
Believe me, it wasn’t easy to ironically show up to a car dealership via bus. Especially in a small city where public transportation isn’t exactly popular. Getting off the bus and promptly writing up repair orders on $60,000 automobiles was, well, interesting. The strange looks would come. But I was getting cooked alive here. So I had no time to waste.
I worked harder and harder. I earned more. I spent less. I increased my savings rate past the 60% mark. And I eventually quit that job to focus on my passion for writing.
Now here we are.
More than four years after starting the blog and five years after starting this journey, I’ve been working from home since last summer. I jumped out of the boiling water to live life on my terms. Yet I’m climbing the mountain of freedom with more enthusiasm and energy than ever. The Freedom Fund recently crossed the $200,000 mark. And dividend income should average about $600 per month this year.
But I don’t think I could have done all that without the impetus that the thought of working in that industry for the rest of my life provided. The strong income also helped immensely.
What If The Water Weren’t Boiling?
The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.
– Warren Buffett
I could have quit my job at the car dealership years ago and took up something that was perhaps more enjoyable and/or less stressful.
But if I had done that, would I have ever felt the weight of the chains upon me? Would they have been to light to be felt until they were too heavy to break?
The problem that existed for me back in, say, 2011 was that I didn’t really have a great alternative to what I was already doing. The blog wasn’t making very much money at all, and certainly not anything even close to live off of. And I didn’t even know if I’d really enjoy it all that much on a full-time basis. It was still really new to me.
I had some other ideas, though. Becoming a personal trainer, which is something I took courses for in my early 20s, was an option. But I had tried to land a few personal trainer jobs while I was in college to futile results. Competition was stiff and the pay – especially for those just starting out – was very meager. That was especially true for those working directly for a facility. Independent contractors had more income potential, but I lacked the resources to try that out.
I could have landed something else, sure. But I felt, and still feel, like I was already taking advantage of my best opportunity for maximum income to make maximum progress in a minimal amount of time. Taking a pay cut would have been devastating to my savings rate and ability to invest as much as I was. Thus, it would have been even more difficult to jump out of that water at the first chance I got.
And what if the water wasn’t as hot?
Well, I’ve already discussed that this journey isn’t about hating your job. It’s about options, flexibility, freedom, and autonomy. It’s about buying yourself the best luxuries known to man. It’s about aligning your true values with your actions and carving out a life that you’re absolutely thrilled with.
But if I never started out with the general malaise that the service advisor gig brought about, would I have ever sought out the light? Maybe not.
Now, I’m not saying that’s all bad. A dollar isn’t a dollar, and I’d rather make less money doing something that brings about more joy in my life. But there’s also that underlying concern that what makes me happy at 25 years old might not still make me happy at 45 or 55 years old. And if that water just slowly starts to boil on me, at what point is it too late to jump out?
You might ask a young engineer at 25 years old if they’re happy with what they do. And maybe they’re absolutely delighted. The water isn’t hot. The chains aren’t heavy. No need to panic. Certainly no need to seek out financial independence.
Ask that same engineer at 50 years old if they still enjoy what they do and you might get yourself a totally different answer. 25 years of grinding away at the same problems will probably wear on a person. And if their lifestyle has inflated with 25 years of pay raises, those chains might then be too heavy to break. The frog is getting cooked alive.
I’m not saying that anyone should seek out a job that makes them miserable. If you can make a healthy living while doing what you love, that’s really the best way to go. Especially if you can live below your means and still seek out financial independence. Loving what you do and seeking financial freedom aren’t mutually exclusive endeavors. However, most people don’t like what they do.
What I am saying is that I’m glad that I was able to experience the rat race so early in life. I now know exactly what it feels like to be a frog in boiling water. And I know it’s not a very good feeling.
A job I hated gave me the motivation and income necessary to seek out financial independence. And for that I’ll be forever grateful. I owe a great debt of gratitude to the very industry that drove me away. I now find myself in a position where I’m able to wake up and do what I love every single day, all while also possessing the freedom and flexibility necessary to change gears in the future, if I so wish.
Being in water that’s slightly less hot might not feel so uncomfortable at the time. But you don’t want to find yourself cooked later on in life. Options, freedom, and flexibility are better than the alternative, no matter what. That way even if the water is mild at one point in time, you have the resources necessary to jump out later if/when conditions change.
What’s really wonderful is that you don’t even need to work at something you don’t like for very long, if you find yourself in such a position. Work your way up the spectrum of freedom and you’ll likely find yourself more free than you might have thought possible, and quicker than you might expect. That gives you the opportunity to seek out new lifetimes and new adventures.
So if you have a job you hate, use that to your advantage. Use it to fuel your fire. Don’t let it get you down. Be glad that they’re giving you the motivation necessary to seek out the light by placing you in boiling water while simultaneously giving you the resources to get out.
But don’t sit in boiling water for too long. Don’t wait until the chains are too heavy to break to give them a good tug. You have the power to be free, and perhaps even faster than you might think. Make sure you’re taking advantage of that every single day.
What do you think? Are you glad to have had (or still have) a job you hated? Did that (or does that) motivate you to seek out freedom?
Thanks for reading.
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